Happiness is a choice. I know, way easier said than done. But it’s true, we choose to be happy. If you were to ask me, “is happiness a choice?” a couple years ago, I would have shut you down. Quick.
I have been struggling with depression for about six years. I was extremely sad, tired all the time, and doing “normal” things seemed daunting to me. I thought happiness didn’t exist. And the worst part about it was that no one knew. Well, I didn’t want anyone to know. I put on a facade of happiness to the outside world so no one would know that I was struggling.
My freshman year of college was when my depression got extremely severe. I barely ate, never went to class, either slept all day or couldn’t sleep at all, and even didn’t shower. I thought this was going to be my life forever. Not to mention, my pessimistic attitude didn’t help my situation at all.
After months and months of feeling this way, I had a really bad breakdown. I don’t want to get into details but let’s just say, it was the day that I decided to get help. I’ve been in therapy for about a year now and have been on anti-depressant medications for about eight months.
When I first started taking my anti-depressants, I thought that it would change my life. I thought that the medication itself would make myself and my life 100X better. I was wrong. You can take all the medication that you want, but without the right mindset and lifestyle changes, your journey to happiness will be even more difficult.
My experience dealing with depression has been a rollercoaster of ups and downs. I have learned a lot about myself and life. Over time, I have realized that each day I choose if I want to be happy. I am in control of my life and I choose to look on the brighter side of things. I have narrowed down the best ways that help me consciously choose happiness each and every day. Most of these activities are small, but they make the biggest difference in my day.
Note: I am not a licensed psychiatrist or therapist. All of the tips I am sharing today are what I have learned from my own therapist and have tried out myself.
1. Gratitude: Thinking back, I used to ignore everything that I have. Instead, I would dwell on what I didn’t. Each day, I remind myself for one thing that I am grateful for (this can even be something small like “I am grateful that I have a roof over my head”). I keep all of my gratitudes in a journal so that when I am feeling sad, I read over my gratitude list. This is a small action, but it helps to keep me in check with myself and my reality. Here’s my gratitude for today: “I am grateful that I have access to education.”
Here’s a photo of me when I had the opportunity to lead an orientation group for a day! ->
2. Your feelings are valid: It’s okay to feel the way that you do. I used to beat myself up because I thought that my feelings were invalid. Why was I stressing out about the smallest thing? Why am I complaining when there are people in the world that don’t have anything? Although these things may be true, constantly thinking like this will eat you alive. It’s important to remind yourself that what you are feeling is valid. Accept how you are feeling and use that to guide how you are going to deal with the issue.
3. Surround yourself with the right community: The people that you surround yourself with have a gigantic influence on how you live and view life. If you are surrounded by negative and toxic people, it is more likely that you will also begin to act this way. Find people that believe in you and motivate you to become a better person. It’s amazing how much impact a loving and supporting friend can have on your life. Even if it’s just one person. Remember, quality over quantity!
4. Find a passion project: One way I kept myself distracted from bad thoughts was by pouring my energy into a passion project. Not only do you get to do some self exploration, but you also get to learn a new craft/hobby that you can share with your friends! The first passion project that I tried was painting. I spent months recreating a photo from my parents wedding. Not only was it a fun learning experience, but it also helped with my stress level. Now, I blog! Blogging is a way for me to relax and share what I love with all of you.
5. Learn to love yourself: One of the key aspects to learning how to choose happiness is learning how to love yourself. I am still struggling with this one, but it is getting better day by day. I used to loathe myself and because of that, I turned into my #1 enemy. Now, I strive to be my #1 friend. When I think of myself, I like to think of how my parents or best friend would view me. Each day, I look at myself in the mirror and point out one thing I love about myself. You can start with something small and work your way up to larger affirmations – it’s important to recognize your strengths. Today I said, “I love that I am strong.”
6. Channel an inspiring quote: Many people use quotes to inspire and motivate them in their daily lives. Personally, I use the quote “head up!” to help and motivate me each day. When I am feeling down, I just remind myself: “head up!” As goes for when I am feeling discouraged or if my day isn’t going the way that I wanted to. This quote reminds me that if I just put my head up, everything will be okay. I have a friend whose quote is, “Life is colorful,” and this really resonates with her. Find your own quote! You can explore lots of inspirational quotes on Pinterest.
7. Get a pet, if you can: Recently, I adopted my little baby boy, Soju. He is a little kitten full of energy and he is my everything. Before adopting him, I would often feel lonely and eventually become trapped in my own thoughts. With Soju, I feel like I always have someone to keep me company, someone who will always listen to me (even though he doesn’t understand or responds), and someone to comfort me while I’m feeling sad. Not to mention, he has helped with my anxiety issues by ten-fold (he’s my emotional support animal!). If you are available to get a pet, I would highly recommend. They truly become your best friend. It’s a large investment, but it’s one that’s 100% worth it.
These are the things that I do each day to help me choose happiness. So far, it’s working wonderfully! Each day is a journey, but it’s one that I am glad I’m on. Let me know if you try any of these and how it works for you. Also, do you have anything you do that helps you choose happiness? I would love to know!